ROCKFORD--The emotional wounds from that horrible December day are still raw. Five months after the REACT helicopter crashed in a Lee County farm field, Winnebago County first responders are still coming to terms with the deaths of three heroes.
"They put their life on the line to do what other people think are unimaginable to do," said Ron Meadors, the director of the REACT program for Rockford Health Systems. They'll now be memorialized on a proposed wall of honor.
"Sadly we now have to add our newest to the wall," said Will Pederson, Board President for the Winnebago County 9/11 Memorial Foundation.
"That is why we are here today."
Three names will be added to the list of 25 and fundraising efforts for the project are well underway. The location of the memorial is set for State Street and Chestnut Avenue. The foundation has raised nearly $150,000 with that number expected to grow to $200,000 by the end of the year. If officials can raise a total of $500,000, the memorial will be in place by September 11, 2016.
It's a timeless tribute to first responders who sacrifice so much.
"Time has a tendency to make us forget. Well, we can't do that," said Scott Christiansen, Winnebago County Board Chairman. "We have to always remember and never forget."
"It is my hope that everyone from our area will visit, reflect and remember who they were and what they gave," Pederson said.
The current REACT crew members say it's the least they can do -- for fellow crew members who gave their lives to save others.
"We have our lives together, we've been together for a really long time," noted Meadors.
"They are the best of the best."